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Tribeca Film Festival 2014: Top 10 Movies to Check Out

From rock docs to A-list comedies and dramas, these are the buzzed-about titles at this year’s downtown film fest

Tribeca Festival Films

Courtesy of Tribeca Film; Picasa 2.7; Courtesy Time Is Illmatic; Len DeLessio

Ever since its inception in 2002, the Tribeca Film Festival has not only helped revitalize the downtown New York neighborhood — a huge part of its post-9/11 origin story — but has introduced a number of talented filmmakers, documentarians, and soon-to-be-famous fresh faces to a whole new audience. The fest's programming has always been extremely varied (you want music docs? ESPN-sponsored sports-hero portraits? Swedish dramas about rural shepherds and micro-indies about Brooklyn hipsters? It's got 'em all!), yet you're almost always guaranteed to find something to spark intelligent conversation and inspire arguments in the theater's lobby as the credits roll.

Nas Documentary 'Time Is Illmatic' Opens the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival

So as the festival's lucky 13th edition gets ready to take over Tribeca from April 16th through the 27th, we've singled out 10 films that should guarantee some lively post-screening cocktail chatter, from rockumentaries and behind-the-scenes hip-hop history lessons to comedies, thrillers and the latest James Franco joint. By David Fear

 

Emjay Anthony Chef

Merrick Morton

‘Chef’

Writer, director and star Jon Favreau plays a chef who, after angering his employer by getting creative with the meals and exchanging words with a snotty critic, finds himself having to start over — in this case, buying a food truck where he can sell his food directly to the people. (Any similarity between a filmmaker who once directed a popular blockbuster franchise, had some creative differences and then went back to his indie roots is, of course, entirely coincidental.) If you like all-star casts — Scarlett Johansson, Robert Downey Jr., Sofia Vergara, Dustin Hoffman, John Leguizamo, Bobby Canavale — this one's for you.

Every Secret Thing

Alison Rosa

‘Every Secret Thing’

Laura Lippman's 2004 novel gets the big-screen treatment, starring Elizabeth Banks as a detective investigating disappearances that may or may not be connected to a small town's missing-child case from several years prior. The fact that director Amy Berg — whose documentaries have explored the legacy of a child-molesting priest and the West Memphis Three case, respectively — is behind the camera suggests that no punches will be getting pulled here.

Land Ho!

Andrew Reed

‘Land Ho!’

If you see only one low-budget comedy about two elderly gentleman taking a road trip through Iceland, we strongly suggest you make it this one. Directors Aaron Katz and Martha Stephens take what may be two of the most clichéd plots ever — the geriatric second-chance story and the ol' vacation-that-changed-my-life chestnut — and somehow breathe fresh life into both of them. Were there a Most Charming Vulgar Old Coot award given out at the festival, actor Earl Lynn Nelson would have two-to-one odds on winning.

Love is Strange

Jeong Park

‘Love Is Strange’

Longtime companions John Lithgow and Alfred Molina tie the knot — and once the Catholic school where Molina's music teacher works finds out, he's summarily dismissed. (They don't have a problem with him being gay; he's just not allowed to be gay-married.) The two are then forced to sell their place and separately couch-surf with friends until they can afford to reunite. Director Ira Sachs (Keep the Lights On) humanizes a hot-button social issue but, more importantly, turns this autumnal love story into something heartfelt and, ultmately, tragic. Bring tissues. Lots of them.

The Other One Bob Weir

Adrian Boot/UrbanImage Media

‘The Other One: The Long, Strange Trip of Bob Weir’

Deadheads, take note: You'll get a first-hand tour of what it was like to hang with Ken Kesey, form one of the 20th century's most influential rock bands, play in front of the Pyramids and keep the Sixties countercultural spirit alive in the 21st century, all from a man who was there. (At least he's enjoying the ride.) This is Bob Weir, in his own words — and probably a song or two.

Palo Alto

Courtesy Tribeca Film

‘Palo Alto’

One of two festival ensemble movies featuring James Franco (the other, Third Person, is the new ensemble drama from Paul "Crash" Haggis), this story of intersecting lives at a Bay Area high school has a special Francophilic pedigree: It's based off the actor-director-writer-metacelebrity's own book of short stories. He plays a soccer coach enamored with his Emma Roberts' student player (quit snickering, people); Gia Coppola, the granddaughter of Francis Ford Coppola, directs.

Jack O'Connell Starred up

Courtesy Tribeca Film

‘Starred Up’

You know that moment when you watch a young, somewhat unknown actor turn into a movie star before your very eyes? That's what happens with British actor Jack O'Connell and this prison drama about a teen offender "promoted" to an adult incarceration facility — coincidentally, the same one where his father (played by Animal Kingdom's Ben Mendelsohn) is also locked up. There's intense, and then there's the way that O'Connell portrays this underage convict in way over his head. He's already been drumming up praise on the festival circuit and his home country for his performance. Now's your chance to see why.

Alice Cooper

Len DeLessio

‘Super Duper Alice Cooper’

He wrote "School's Out" and "Welcome to My Nightmare"; put on a stage show that involved chopping up baby dolls, fondling a python and staging his own mock execution; lived the excessive lifestyle that one expects of a Seventies rock star; and, later, became a really excellent golfer. His name is Alice, and as this documentary chock full of vintage concert footage and testimonials prove, he truly was super duper.

Venus in Fur

Courtesy Guy Ferrandis

‘Venus in Fur’

Roman Polanski adapts David Ives' Tony-winning play about a theater director (Matthieu Amalric), an actress auditioning to play a 19th-century dominatrix (Polanski's wife Emmanuelle Seigner), and — per usual for the director — a whole hell of a lot of psychosexual tension. The questions soon pile up: Is this woman really an actress? Is she real at all, or is the whole thing happening in the director's fevered mind? How much fur will there actually be in this movie?!?